My first thought upon viewing the Grand Canyon: “Wow.” No matter how many pictures you might have seen, you just can’t prepare for the magnitude of the place. My second thought: “I can’t believe there aren’t more guardrails.” As a twenty-first-century mother accustomed to governmental rules and regulations to protect us from ourselves, I don’t know what I expected – railings around the entire 277- mile rim and down the trails to the base a vertical mile below? I nervously watched my teenaged kids snap selfies atop rocks jutting out over the ledge, praying that my lanky son wouldn’t trip or that my preening daughter wouldn’t veer too close to the edge trying to find the perfect shot.
We were embarking on a four-hour guided excursion below the South Rim, part of an itinerary arranged by Virtuoso’s on-site connection Revealed America. Most of the park’s nearly 6 million annual visitors only take in the vantage from above, but the ten percent who venture below immerse themselves in a billion years of history. As we trekked the moderately challenging South Kaibab Trail, our guide engaged the kids with an educational “Who can find it first?” scavenger hunt, dropping fascinating archaeological and geological clues along the way that stirred memories from my high-school earth science class.
About a mile down the trail, we stopped at Ooh Aah Point to take in the expansive views (“Don’t climb too far out on that rock, kids!”), then continued along the well-maintained path as it changed from switchbacks to straight descent. A mile later, we took one last look at the Colorado River far below and reluctantly turned around.
After our climb back to the top, we headed to a historic National Park lodge right on the rim for a surprisingly gourmet lunch (salmon with green chile pesto; salad with goat cheese, berries, and pine nuts; addictive cheddar corn muffins), relaxing our tired legs and recalling the hike’s highlights. My family will forever remember our day exploring this natural wonder – and I’m glad fences didn’t block the view.